In the summer of 1906, a Milwaukee businessman set out with his young sons and some friends to canoe and camp in the north woods of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Canada. It was the first of several month-long journeys Howard Greene and “The Gang” would make over the years, each detailed in remarkable, handmade journals and documented in hundreds of large-format photographs. Reproduced here with a large selection of photographs and maps, these journals convey readers into a riverine world of outdoor adventure—a northland wilderness and way of life that were, even as Howard Greene charted their genuine charms, already vanishing.
Introduced and annotated by Greene’s daughter, these observant narratives run rapids and portage and paddle lakes and rivers, including the Chippewa, Wisconsin, St. Croix, and Presque Isle as well as traveling in areas now in Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Along the way Greene, a skilled photographer, captures images of logging and mining operations, primitive dams and even more primitive camping, trading posts, and many remote Native American villages. Through it all runs the story of family and friendship forged over campfires in the north woods, reported with dry wit, a keen eye for detail, and an abiding interest in the natural world.
Composed decades before Sigurd Olson or Calvin Rutstrum began documenting the wild life of the upper Midwest, Howard Greene’s journals are a window into a world at once familiar and strange, the wilderness caught on the verge of becoming the North Woods we know today.